23 May 2016
Dear colleagues and students,
I want to communicate to you in greater detail the work that the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) has been doing and to clarify its role at UCT with regard to eliminating sexual violence.
SART is a collaborative collective appointed this year to coordinate the services on campus to deliver a holistic approach that is survivor-centred and open to accommodate the voices of all those affected by sexual violence on campus. Among other things, this includes coordinating the services and support to survivors to ensure a consistent level of care; reviewing cases of sexual violence on campus for service improvement through training of targeted populations, as well as to promote mechanisms for accountability; and reporting back to the university community and UCT management.
The first quarterly report on SART's work is now available. It highlights some major concerns regarding the quality of care that has been offered by UCT to survivors of sexual assault. We recognise the importance of being transparent about these issues. The report notes, for instance, how a survivor was wrongly advised regarding what to do after being assaulted. We are looking into this and will ensure that staff members who are likely to be involved with survivors of sexual assault are trained to provide the correct information.
In another instance, we are extremely concerned about an allegation of rape in a UCT office by a staff member. The individual that brought this to the attention of SART has not revealed the identity of the assailant and this limits the action we can take on this matter. We hope that we may, in time, receive this information so that we can act decisively and firmly.
I encourage you to read the quarterly report for greater insight into the work of SART as a step towards engaging both students and staff on the approach SART will take. UCT's reaction to incidents of sexual violence and our efforts to prevent sexual violence rest squarely with the executive. SART and all staff and students can play a significant role in working alongside us to ensure we make rapid progress. I believe we are moving in the right direction. The review of DISCHO and the Transformation Services Office will contribute to an enhanced, stronger unit in future, but there remains much to be done and we invite survivors, the SRC, the broader student body and all staff members to become part of the process.
We have received several demands and suggestions from survivors and we are in the process of working through these. They include excellent suggestions and improvements. At the protest by survivors outside Bremner on 11 May, it was again evident that many survivors feared being identified and believe they are at risk in raising their stories. There is no doubt that we must work even harder to change the environment and culture on campus so that survivors feel less afraid and more supported and enabled to tell their stories, to seek action against perpetrators and to reach out for help and support from staff and fellow students.
Please keep in mind that assistance is available on campus if you are experiencing any form of harassment or violence. All the services below will also ensure the involvement of SART.
Sexual assault and gender-based violence are tragedies that are all too common around the world. It is clear that UCT needs to play a stronger role to address these issues.
Dr Max Price
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